Often when I’m talking in social situations with people who aren’t authors, they will admit that they have a story they’d like to tell. They have this idea, but faced with a pen and paper (or a blank computer screen) they have no idea what to do.
I think their mistake is assuming the words will flow out perfectly, reading like a published novel from the get-go. That inevitably doesn’t happen, at which point it’s easy to get discouraged or freeze up.
Have you ever watched a house being built? The builders dig a hole and pour a foundation first. When approaching a new house, you might first see the walls and front door, but those pieces weren’t built first. The same is true with writing. The first thing the reader sees probably isn’t going to be the author’s first thought. So, adjust your expectations, and focus on building the foundation for your story first.
Let’s be honest. Starting is hard. Really hard. Stop trying to write a perfect first sentence. In fact, don’t try to write a sentence at all. Write a word, a phrase, a mood, a random thought. Make notes about who your characters are and what they want. Make more notes about what happened before the story started and what might happen at some point in the story. This could be a vague half-coherent explanation of the overarching plot or specific details about the giant cracks in the dry, hard ground that sets the stage for a single scene.
It doesn’t matter what you write on the page or if it makes sense to anyone. You’re starting to build your story house. You’re gathering your tools, the concrete, the boards, the nails, the drywall. Slowly, the foundation will begin to form out of random sentences, half-formed ideas, descriptions and suggestions.
Congratulations! You’re now a writer. Keep going. You’ve already done the hardest part. You started.